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Big day on the Heights! ESPN’s traveling pregame show, College GameDay Live, aired live from the Dustbowl for two hours this morning and was dedicated to Mark Herzlich, stricken with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a severe form of cancer in the leg. Gameday saw a rowdy group of fans in attendence behind the host desk and even hanging out of the nearby academic buildings, Fulton and Lyons Halls, despite the rain that seemed to fall steadily through the two hour football appetizer.
Chestnut Hill was chosen as this week’s destination for Mark Herzlich. The episode was dedicated to him with inspirational vignettes sprinkled throughout from the likes of fellow cancer survivors Jon Lester of the Red Sox, all-world cyclist Lance Armstrong, and UNC Football Coach Butch Davis. Tedy Bruschi, another New England icon and survivor of his stroke, also appeared live. Herzlich also appeared on the desk with hosts Chris Fowler, Lee Corso, and Kirk Herbstreit and announced that his doctor has told him he has beaten his cancer 99.9%. He will have a rod placed in his leg to replace the bone lost to the tumor and expects to be 100% ready for BC’s 2010 season. Congratulations, Mark!
Almost lost in all the hype was the big game at Alumni Stadium that afternoon, between the surpising 3-1 Eagles and the Jekyll and Hyde Seminoles at 2-2. Before the Eagles took the field, Mark Herzlich kept up his inspiration by appearing live on the field with a mike and brought the crowd to its feet and whipped them into a frenzy with a rousing speech. The raucous atmosphere kept up throughout most of the game.
BC appeared almost willed to win with a very strong first half. They played gritty football on the defensive end and showed the most cohesion on offense they have had all season under Dave Shinskie’s watch. After exchanging punts, Florida State opened the scoring with a field goal after failing to get into the end zone, but the rest of the half was BC’s. Montell Harris (25 rush, 179 yds, 2 TD) got on track on the ground with a 21 yard run to open the following drive and Shinskie (13-22, 212 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT) found Colin Larmond (5 rec, 99 yds), Rich Gunnell (5, 47, TD), and Justin Jarvis (1, 20) for long gains, setting up a Harris four yard score.
The following drive was the signature of the game. Florida State began with the ball at their 32 and drown to the BC3 with relative ease and BC gave them two more yards with a penalty, giving the ‘Noles four shots at a touchdown from the one. Lonnie Pryor (4 rush, 0 yds) took the ball inside the one on the first play, but the BC line repelled him. Luke Keuchly tackled Pryor for a one yard loss on second down and Pryor’s third attempt at six resulted in no gain. FSU Coach Bobby Bowden made a good call to go for it on fourth down, but quarterback Christian Ponder (29-43, 340, 0 TD, 0 INT) came out to throw and could not find anyone and Alex Albright chased him down for a 10 yard sack and a goal-line stand for the Eagles.
With the momentum clearly now on BC’s side, the offense went for the jugular and on the third play, a third and nine, Shinskie hit Larmond for a huge 62 yard gain. Harris then took the Eagles down to the three with seven consecutives rushes for 28 yards. Shinskie capped off the drive with a three yard pass to Gunnell. After each team took a turn fumbling, FSU punted and BC drove 65 yards in six plays, capped off with a 38 yard TD pass to Jeff Smith, his only catch of the game. FSU used the remaining time to drive and score a field goal with time expiring on the half, BC up 21-6.
The first half ended with a downpour after the rain had held off for most of the first half, and combined with the BC lead, the crowd had lost some of its edge. BC seemingly gave up on the pass, content to sit on the ball and try to run down the clock enough to ensure victory with 11 of the first 13 BC plays in the second half being runs. Florida State had a six and a half minute, 50 play drive, but was forced to punt.
However, the Seminoles were not done. They went 91 yards in six plays in 1:45 to tighten the game at 21-13. Ponder picked the BC secondary apart with passes of 20, 33, and 28. The drive ended with a 10 yard gain on a reverse by Louis Givens, using his speed to get around the corner. BC then ran the ball five more times and punted. FSU responded with an eight play, 84 yard drive in 3:23 and converted the two point conversion to square the game at 21. However, that woke up the BC crowd, but the Eagles did not answer right away. Jeff Smith fumbled on the first play of the ensuing drive, setting up Florida State on the BC29. The defense fed off the loud crowd and allowed only nine yards, resulting in a missed field goal.
Shinskie and Harris moved the ball into FSU territory, but the drive sputtered with two incomplete passes and, on third and 10, Shinskie missed his man, who was tripped, but the laundry hit the field and BC was awarded a first down to keep the drive alive. On the very next play, Harris rushed up the middle and emerged on the Seminole side of the line with green in front of him. He headed for the pylon, appearing gassed, and dove and hit it for the go ahead score. Florida State had a chance to respond and Ponder came out slinging. With the drive beginning on their own 41, the moved to the BC 27 before four straight incompletions doomed the Noles and BC capped an emotional day with a momentous victory.